The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

September 5, 2013

Unstable Ashtabula school remains challenge fire investigators

Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — The cause of the Aug. 18 fire at the vacant West Avenue School is still under investigation because of the unstable condition of its charred remains, fire investigators said Wednesday.

After carefully evaluating the condition of the building, firefighters decided the risks it presents to investigators greatly outweighs any potential information or evidence that could be gleaned by entering the structure.

The Ashtabula Fire Department has declared the remaining structure unsafe to enter, and urges the public to respect the barricades.

Firefighters received the fire call at about 5:30 p.m. Aug. 18 to find smoke and fire billowing from the building. The four-alarm fire took firefighters two days to completely extinguish, reports show.

No one was injured in the fire.

Fire investigators have since reviewed video and photos circulating on various social media sites and analyzed the smoke and damage patterns.

According to a press release, the fire investigator’s working hypothesis is the fire’s area of origin was the northwest corner, very near the floor  separating the first and second floors. The fire then spread vertically through the north stairwell until the third floor ceiling and roof stopped it, according to the release.

Without physical evidence or witnesses it will be very difficult to determine what specifically caused the blaze, the release said. Investigators have a witness who saw four children running east on West 47th Street about the time the smoke was visible and they are working to locate theses children. They also are seeking out surveillance video from the area that may reveal additional information.

Anyone having credible information should contact the Fire Prevention Bureau at 992-7191.